Ancient History & Civilisation

7. THE END OF THE LATIN LEAGUE

The Latins determined to profit by Rome’s domestic troubles (pp. 107–8). In 343 they launched an attack against the Paeligni in an attempt to cut the communications between Rome and Samnium. When two years later these two states renewed their alliance the Sidicini, feeling themselves threatened by the Samnites, appealed successfully to the Latins for protection. Thus the Latins and Sidicini, together with the Campanians, ranged themselves against Rome and Samnium.29 The storm broke when the Latins demanded from the Romans independence or equality; the request that Livy puts into their mouths – full Roman citizenship and a half share in the government – is clearly an anticipation of the claims made by the Latins two hundred and fifty years later on the eve of the Social War. Their demand was refused, and the Latins mustered for their war of independence. In 340, while one consul protected Rome, T. Manlius led a force through the territory of the Paeligni, joined the Samnites and marched with his allied forces down the Liris. At Trifanum near Suessa he met the Latin allied forces in a great battle. The Campanian horsemen, who might have outflanked the Romans, were sadly ineffective, and the Latin resistance was broken. The Romans quickly made peace with the Campanians, and two years later all resistance was stamped out: in 339 Q. Publilius Philo celebrated a triumph over the Latins and in 338 L. Furius Camillus defeated the northern Latin towns of Pedum and Tibur, while C. Maenius overcame the southern Latins and Volscians in a battle near Antium, which was taken. The various Latin cities submitted and their independence was ended (338).30

The Latin League, which had survived numerous changes, was now dissolved. Many of the cities and colonies were deprived of their rights of commercium and conubium with each other and of all common political activity. Although religious gatherings on the Alban Mount were permitted to continue, the meetings at the Caput Ferentinae were forbidden and the League was politically dead. If the Romans had followed this destructive policy alone, they would merely have driven the Latin opposition underground, stored up trouble for the future, and weakened themselves for their future struggles against the Etruscans, Gauls and Samnites by forfeiting the military support of their old allies. Instead they created a confederacy. They bound the conquered Latins to themselves by ties of common interest, and by a wise liberality they stimulated the patriotism of the Latins for a state of which they became members. Not all were to be fully privileged members from the beginning; complete citizenship was a prize which the Romans held out as an attainable ideal of practical value. Rome became the mother of Italy, training her children by carefully graded stages up to the privilege of full family life. This was an immense stride forward in Rome’s history and indeed in the history of mankind. The conquered people were not to be dragged along at Rome’s chariot wheels as slaves; they were asked to share in the privileges and responsibilities of their conqueror. Rome thus grounded her hegemony of Italy on moral principles, however much they may have been dictated by self-interest. The moral justification of the Roman conquest of Italy is that when Pyrrhus and Hannibal came to deliver the Italian peoples from the yoke of Rome, they failed because the Italian confederacy preferred to remain loyal to Rome’s leadership.

The elaborate scheme of enfranchisement which Rome evolved was not the work of a moment, but its main lines were laid down by the settlement of 338. First, some of the nearest Latin towns (Lanuvium, Aricia, Nomentum and Pedum, together with Tusculum if it had not already been incorporated in 381) were granted full Roman citizenship and retained their municipal governments. Rome thus counterbalanced the ravages of war by increasing the number of her full citizens; within a generation a Tusculan noble reachedthe Roman consulship (322). In 332 two new tribes were formed in Latium, named Maecia and Scaptia. Secondly, some towns (municipia) accepted civitas sine suffragio, which at this time was not regarded as an inferior brand of Roman citizenship, but was an alliance whereby Rome and the municipium exchanged social rights (conubium and commercium). These municipia remained separate respublicae with full local autonomy except that they surrendered an independent foreign policy, provided Rome with troops (their munus), and were liable to visits by Roman judicial prefects. Their status thus resembled that of ius Latii, while their citizens could obtain full Roman citizenship by settling in Rome itself; gradually, however, the balance of power was tipped further in Rome’s interest and the character of the municipia declined. The first towns to accept civitas sine suffragio were not Latin, but Campanian or Volscian: Fundi, Formiae, Capua, Suessula and Cumae; and Acerrae in 332. The aristocracy of Capua is said to have received full, as opposed to half-, citizenship, but this is improbable, although they perhaps received some economic privileges. Thirdly, the other Latin cities and colonies retained their old status. Officially they remained on the same footing as Rome, being allies (socii Latini nominis), bound by an ‘alliance on terms of equality’ (foedus aequum). But in view of the disparity of strength between themselves and Rome, they would in practice have to fight on Rome’s behalf rather than on their own. And they were limited by being bound to Rome and not to each other. They were forbidden commercium and conubium, at least temporarily, with one another, but retained these rights with Roman citizens; as about half Latium consisted of Roman citizens the limitation was not drastic. The underlying principle of ‘divide and rule’ was a keystone of Roman policy. The cities of this class were the Latin colonies, Signia, Norba, Ardea, Circeii, Sutrium, Nepete and Setia. Tibur and Praeneste were deprived of some of their territory, but, like Cora and Gabii, retained their alliances with Rome. Fourthly, Antium received special treatment. It occupied an important position and had practised piracy for some time. After destroying its fleet the Romans allowed the Antiates to retain possession of their city, but a small Roman colony was sent to occupy a part of their territory. These settlers retained their Roman citizenship and had local home rule, like the municipia, but instead of serving in the Roman army they guarded the seaport. Only nine Roman citizen-colonies of this sort were founded before the First Punic War, since the type of Latin colony was preferred. Velitrae received somewhat similar treatment: the rebels were driven into exile and their lands were distributed to Roman settlers who kept their citizenship.

Such in brief was the organization by which Rome built up a federation in Italy. The allies supplied troops to fight alongside the Romans in their common interests, but it was the Roman citizens who paid the taxes to support citizen and allied troops alike. The allies of Athens, who soon contributed money in place of naval help, came to feel that they were paying tribute to a mistress. Rome avoided levying tribute; she fought her battles side by side with her allies who thus felt the reality of their alliance. It was this policy of generating mutual interest and sentiment that won for Rome the hegemony of Italy and the power to unify its peoples into a nation. (See also Chapter VI, 7.)

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